How to Choose a Dog Food

Choosing your dog’s food can be a very overwhelming process, and so many people seem to have opinions of what is best for your pup and your family. But truth is that the best food for one dog is NOT the best food for another, and no dog food is universally good for all dogs. There are SIX main considerations to keep in mind when choosing a food that is appropriate for your pet – Age, Lifestyle, Breed, Medical Conditions, Type of Food, and Budget. Depending on your pet or your situation one of these categories may play a bigger role than the others. 

1. AGE

As your pet ages their nutritional needs will change. Puppies for example need a particular calcium to phosphorus ratio for appropriate growth, whereas adult dogs do not require that same dietary composition.

2. LIFESTYLE

Depending on the pet’s daily activities you may want a food that is more calorically dense, or less calorically dense order to maintain a healthy weight more easily. You also might want a higher fat or protein diet to allow for quick muscle recovery after exercise if you have an very active pup – like if you do agility training.

3. BREED

Certain breeds of dogs are prone to different medical conditions. For example Bully-breeds tend to have skin issues – an ideal diet for one of these pups might include a diet high in omega 3s such as a fish based diet to support a healthy skin and coat.

4. MEDICAL CONDITIONS

This is definitely a category you will want to speak to your veterinarian about in detail if you pet is currently managing a medical condition. Certain diseases – for example kidney disease – can sometimes be managed with nutritional therapies alone.

5. TYPE OF FOOD

There are many different options out there – kibble, canned, freshly cooked, raw – depending on your lifestyle and home-life one type of food may be better than another for your pet.

6. COST

I feel like this is often overlooked BUT it is an important aspect of choosing a pet food for your pup. Consider your overall budget when choosing a pet food. Remember that your pet will need other things such as exams, toys/enrichment, dental cleanings, doggie daycare/boarding, training, pet sitting, etc. Make sure your food budget doesn’t take up 100% of your monthly pet budget. Allow a bit for other services as well.

After you have a general picture of what type of food/s might be most appropriate for your pup then it’s a matter of researching individual pet foods and companies to make sure they have high standards for formulation, research, manufacturing, quality control, and ingredient sourcing. Because the truth is anyone can launch a pet food, without any quality control measures, without good ingredient sourcing, without formulation experience… It largely falls to us as the consumer (and pup parent) to weed through different companies to find the best food for our pet.

In order to help dog owners choose a pet food and provide some guidelines as to what may be important in a dog food WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) has come up with a series of questions for pet owners to ask pet food manufacturers. These questions were designed so that pup parents can get a good overview of a company and their manufacturing practices prior to choosing a pet food.

Finding the answers to some of these questions can be rather difficult – however there are FIVE main resources that I use in order to compile this information…

NUMBER ONE is the Pet Nutrition Alliance Website, in particular the “Dare To Ask” campaign – this website was put together by board certified veterinary nutritionists and veterinarians. What they have done is ask some basic questions to pet food manufacturers for you – about diet formulation, manufacturing facilities, and nutrient knowledge.

NUMBER TWO is the Pet Food Bag – this resource allows you to get some additional questions answered. In particular…Does the pet food have feeding trials performed? Is the food complete & balanced? What life-stage is it made for? What is the general diet composition?

NUMBER THREE is actually a Facebook Group called “Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Dogs” – I like using this resource to see if there have been any reported probable or confirmed cases of DCM associated with the pet food – if there is a case then I can ask the company about what they have done to combat this (potencial) problem.

NUMBER FOUR is the FDA website. I use this resource in particular to see if a pet food has had any recalls in the past, and if the pet food has been listed on the DCM report release in 2018. If the pet food has had recalls I would ask the company what they have done to make sure this wouldn’t happen again.

NUMBER FIVE is the Pet Food Manufacturer. After I have finished checking the four other sources I compile a list of additional questions that I have about the company. Some additional questions I usually ask are about Ingredient Sourcing, Quality Control Practices (Pre/Post Manufacturing Testing), and Additional Research – like digestibility and long-term studies.

The process of choosing a dog food can be a long and complicated journey, and some dogs you will need to do a lot of trial and error in order to find the “perfect” food that works well for your pet’s sensitivities and specialized needs.

If you are finding that you are having particular difficulty finding a food that suits your pup’s needs – either due to a specific combination of medical conditions, or due to allergies – there are other options -including home-preparing a diet. If you are looking for more information about DIY or Homemade Dog Food – check out my article where I give you information on how to do homemade dog food right, and the considerations before choosing homemade food for your pup.

Make sure to join the conversation on Instagram to ask questions, find answers and connect with other pet parents. I’d love to have you as part of our community of pet lovers.

I hope you and your pup/s have a wonderful day, until next time my Canine Health Nuts!

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5 thoughts on “How to Choose a Dog Food

  1. This is a great article with wonderful resources! I don’t have a dog yet, but when I get one I’ll be feeding raw.

    1. I feel like knowing the type of food you want to feed is a great starting point to narrowing down all those options. Then from there you can look at the overall diet composition, along with the company information to see which diet fits both your pet and your preferences the best. Good luck – and I’m excited for your journey with your pup (when you end up getting him/her).

  2. Hi Nikki ,
    I’m a dog business owner. I have clients that ask for my opinion about many things. I have done plenty of research for almost all of my questions regarding allergies. I’m very well educated , but I’m still stunned as how many bully have terrible skin allergies. We are a huge advocate for pitties. We help shelters , we train some pups to help them get adopted. Anyway I will be following your post and hopefully I will get more info here. You can follow us @fourpawsinn . Thank you and hope we can help each other with trying to help the rest of dog world.

    1. I’ve seen so many bully breeds with allergies as well – though mostly I’ve seen them with environmental allergies. I plan to do another post focusing more on environmental allergies in the future, going over the different options pet parents have when dealing with the condition. The topic is very close to me as my pup Ranger actually has environmental allergies – so I can understand the frustration when dealing with allergies NOT associated with food. I love how much you are helping and advocating for the breed, I will definitely check you out to follow along with what you guys are up to!

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